Last week, I was one of some 2,000 people tested for COVID-19 in Rhode Island that day.
Rhode Island is one of the leading states in COVID-19 testing. They are one of the few states with rapid testing by CVS, along with Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts and Michigan.
As recent as a few weeks ago, you had to be either very sick, elderly or have some kind of underlying condition to be eligible to receive a test. Though this still holds true for the CVS rapid tests, anyone can now get a nasal swab test, which is apparently more accurate, by calling a health center.
I’d had a tightness in my chest for several days, with no other symptoms. I wasn’t coughing, didn’t have a fever, and definitely wasn’t suffering from the loss of taste and smell that some people are reporting. Nonetheless, I kept taking my temperature and monitoring my symptoms.
Last Wednesday (4/15) I was up most of the night with a very deep cough. I started to worry more, even though I still didn’t have a fever. I texted my mother and sister, who are both nurses. They reassured me that I was probably fine, but should keep checking my temp. My mother, though, noted that Govornor Gina Raimondo has been urging everyone in Rhode Island who is experiencing any symptoms at all to get tested. So I figured sure, I’ll look into it. I figured I probably wouldn’t qualify, but I did some research anyway.
I’m a teacher, and my school has been sending daily updates from the Rhode Island Department of Health regarding COVID-19. A few clicks took me to the nearest center that was doing tests, the Garden City Treatment Center in Cranston. I called them up and explained my symptoms (a dry cough and sore chest). They asked me some questions, took down my insurance information, and had me booked for the next morning at 10:00 AM! I was amazed at how soon I was able to get an appointment.
What Was It Like?
When I arrived at the center, there was a line of about six cars waiting in front of this sign:
I waited a few minutes, and a healthcare worker clad in a gown, mask and gloves came to my window to take my name and check my ID. 15 minutes later, I was next in line. Another employee waved me over to a drive-thru temt.
I drove up and was greeted by an extremely friendly man who asked me a few questions. I mentioned that I was nervous, having read a bit too much about the nasal swab test. Many describe it as being “poked in the brain.” He laughed and told me not to worry.
He produced a cotton swab that was about eight inches long and asked me to sit back. He found which nostril looked bigger (my right) and struck it right on up there. The whole thing lasted about 3-4 second and yes, it was extremely uncomfortable. However, I wouldn’t go as far as to call it painful. Luckily, I wasn’t congested at all, or I assume it might have been worse.
After putting the swab in a bag and labeling it, he asked me if I wanted a strep test too. I said why not, and they swabbed my throat. This test only took five minutes and they told me on the spot that it was negative.
Overall, from arrival to driving out, the whole process took about a half an hour. I was very happy to see how many cars were lined up to take tests – the more tests, the more we know, and the sooner we can open up the economy.
Two days later, I got a phone call saying that the test had come back negative. I hadn’t been severely worried that I had the virus, but it was good for peace of mind, and good to know that I wasn’t unwittingly exposing my wife to it. (My brother told me that I wasn’t tested negative for COVID, but rather tested positive for hypochondria.)
If you have any symptoms and are at all concerned about COVID-19, just go and get tested. Especially if you live in one of the states that is doing it at such a large scale – yesterday, Rhode Island tested 2,694 people and 412 came back positive (15%). You can see all of Rhode Island’s statistics in an extremely informative and user-friendly way here. You can also find a handy self-checker.
As testing becomes more widespread and we continue social distancing, the curve in Rhode Island, and the rest of the States, will not only flatten, but decline.